Once you get on the travel trail, it's easy to discover the range of opportunities for shoestring adventures in North America. Here are some inexpensive sources of information to help you get started.
"The Hostel Handbook," self-published by Jim Williams (paperback, 2001), is a pocket-sized listing of more than 600 places providing accommodation for $8 to $35 per night. It includes Hostelling International (HI) hostels, independent hostels, backpacker places and more. Listings are brief; you'll find contact information and rates but little more unless there's an advertisement on the place. It's difficult to know exactly how good each lodging is, but you could post a query about any of them on the message boards of http://www.hostels.com.
You can order copies of "The Hostel Handbook" for $4 (check or money order payable to Jim Williams) from Hostel Handbook, Dept. HHB, 722 St. Nicholas Ave., New York, NY 10031. Or you can go online at http://www.hostelhandbook.com, find a listing that's on your route and pick up a free copy. (But about half of the places listed do not offer free copies.) Hostels in winter resort areas often have economical rates in summer. For example, Park City, Utah, which will host half of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games events, also draws hikers, mountain bikers and other outdoors lovers during the summer. The independent Park City International Hostel offers accommodations in shared rooms for $25 per night. To help decorate its lobby in a ski resort theme, the hostel is offering $5 off for guests who provide a ski map that the hostel doesn't already have. For information, contact Park City International Hostel, 268 Main St., Park City, UT 84060, telephone (435) 655-7244, fax (435) 655-7258, Internet http://www.parkcityhostel.com.
About 200 hostels in North America are affiliated with Hostelling International, a worldwide association. It produces its own handbook, "Hostelling North America," which is free to members. Nonmembers can get a copy for $3. Contact the Los Angeles office of Hostelling International at 1434 2nd St., Santa Monica, CA 90401; tel. (310) 393-6263, fax (310) 393-1769. For information about HI hostels in the U.S. or to order "Hostelling North America" online, contact HI-AYH, 733 15th St. N.W., Suite 840, Washington, D.C. 20005, tel. (202) 783-6161, http://www.hiayh.org. The 400-page book provides details, telephone numbers, maps and photos of its 126 hostels in the U.S. and 74 in Canada. Overnight rates average $12 to $25 for HI members. Nonmembers are welcome at most hostels but pay a higher rate.
Although most guests are in their late teens and 20s, many hostels have private family or couples' rooms (reserve in advance). Some HI hostels are in national parks, and many are in historic or unique buildings. A few even offer amenities such as swimming pools and hot tubs.
For more information on Canadian HI, tel. (613) 237-7884 or go online to http://www.hostellingintl.ca.
In Canada this summer, several free backpacker publications are available at many hostels. Pocket-sized North magazine lists budget accommodations across Canada (including some for camping), background information, tips on sightseeing and transportation, and practical advice. The online version of the magazine, at http://www.northmagazine.com, provides helpful basic information plus a countrywide list of festivals and summer events. Also look for Trip magazines (also online, http://www.tripmag.com), which are free, brief budget travel guides for youths on Toronto and Ontario, Montreal and Quebec, and Vancouver and British Columbia.
An independent hostel opened last spring in the popular Rocky Mountain resort town of Banff, about 90 minutes' drive from Calgary. The centrally located Global Village Backpackers Banff has 100 beds in shared rooms. Rates start at $14 plus tax. Reservations are recommended. Telephone (888) 844-7875 (toll-free) or see http://www.globalbackpackers.com.
This summer, all students who carry International Student Identity Cards (ISIC) are entitled to a 35% discount on economy-class travel on VIA Rail Canada rail services nationwide. You don't have to buy tickets in advance, and there are no service charges. Just show your ID wherever VIA tickets are sold.
Students are also eligible for special rates on Canrailpasses, valid for unlimited rail travel for any 12 days within a 30-day period. The student rate (until Oct. 15) is about $390. For information online visit http://www.viarail.ca.